Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.
When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day. Yet, a damn productive one too. I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.
Sleep beckons though. I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one. That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips. Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form. I am not selling this well am I. Come to think of it, I never do.
The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged. Here for your delectation.
Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National
This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national. It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind. we will be front page and not just back page.
Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with. At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.
No other race is run over four and a half miles. The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.
Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite. Let me take those in turn. To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers. The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating. Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.
The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.
I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself. If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop. Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone. Good riddance would be my reply. This is no good advert for racing.
That is my other issue with the National. The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely. Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race. I would prefer we dealt with it now.
I have it off my chest.
Thursday Aintree Card
Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results. It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects. Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too. Thus, a little caution is advised.
In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there. Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs. Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right. 10/3 Stan James.
Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.
Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot. He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill. Load the cannons.
The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices. Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like? Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several. Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.
Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.
It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.
The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.
In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out. That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender. However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year. The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.
I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase. Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer. Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view. Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.
In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy. He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1. One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity. He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.